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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(G) 6 out of 156
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= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

The Garden. (Page 169).

Drams No drams needed but a hanky yes.
Venue Pleasance Dome. (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Place.
Reviewer Thelma Good.

Sometimes events set people's lives on different courses. In The Garden the bitter sweet perfume of might have been is released in a one man show of considerable skill and charm. Jonathan Young is the writer and actor, he transforms himself between several key characters. There's Hugh, a WW1 survivor with scars, whose family were the owners of the now renown Lost Gardens of Heligan, the cheeky guide to the present gardens who says profound things without being aware they are, the determined to keep going elderly Beatrice with her tape machine, her electronic short term memory, and Hugh's great nephew Jay. Off stage characters feature too, Jay's bossy sister who gives him written instructions when he goes to clear his great uncle's cottage - after telling him how to find the grave she lists "Have a moment" amongst the things to do, and Jay's ex-girlfriend with whom Jay just can't manage to re-establish connection.

Directed by Carolina Valdés and using superb video by Oogoo Maia, music composed by Mrs Pilgimm Young uses a very few props, including a wheelbarrow which when in Young's hands turn into other objects including a leather or rocking chair or a car complete with windscreen wipper. Indeed his ability is such the audience has no difficulty creating rich scenery to surround these many-layered characters. Hugh's life and Jay's have parallels, they both have experienced war - for Jay it was Bosnia. They both are wounded souls, and both find it hard to accept how important the woman in their life is. Beatrice is a delightful creature and the audience pleased already, clearly respond with a great-she's-back reaction every time her bent, frail form totters in. Her spirit and her driving makes you want to cheer at her determination.

If you have ever loved, and lacked courage at the right time and still regret The Garden will move and remind. It's a quietly assured show containing a superbly produced and acted script. Shams Theatre confirm they are ones to watch.
©Thelma Good 19 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 14:40 not 8, 15 or 22. The Garden will tour in England and Jersey in September and next February/March.
Company - Shams Theatre.
Company Website - ww.shamstheatre.co.uk .


Get Carter. (Page 170).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop .

In the late 1960'sand early1970's, British filmmaking had something of a hey day. Among the cream was an exercise in film noir, Get Carter, featuring Michael Caine. Still something of a cult classic, Red Shift have revamped Ted Lewis' script for the stage, to excellent effect. Get Carter is a tale of shifting loyalties, a search for truth and ultimately a quest for revenge. As violent and amoral as the 'spaghetti' westerns it somewhat resembles, Get Carter bowls along in its Red Shift dress with great pace and style.

A cast of six assume multiple character identities to follow the plot lines of the original remarkably closely, and although this reviewer doesn't remember quite as many scenes set in gentlemen's lavatories, there's a faithfulness to the gritty original which imbues the whole show with a genuine sense of integrity. One alteration, however makes the most of theatricality to give us the musings of Jack Carter's murdered brother Frank, ably played by Tim Weekes, a fine foil for Jack Lord as the other Carter brother, back 'up north' to find out who done his sibling wrong. The ensuing mayhem wouldn't be out of place in Elsinore Castle, as Jack upsets several apple carts and gives several local big time boys more than the pip in his search for the truth.

There's a delightful sense of period to this piece, to which Jon Nicholl's scoring of several seventies favourites adds immeasurably. Red Shift's normally high production values ensure that it looks right, feels right and convinces. Obviously built to tour, Red Shift's dark little number can scarcely fail to enthral and appall in almost equal measure. This may not be a play for the squeamish, but for those who like theirs hard-boiled and gritty, this Get Carter could be just the ticket.
©Bill Dunlop 10 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 27 at 18.25 every day.
Company - Red Shift.
Company Website - www.redshifttheatre.co.uk.


Girl Blog From Iraq: Baghdad Burning. (Page 170).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Morag Hannah.

With a script lifted from the weblog of the same name, Baghdad Burning is one young woman's continuing account of her life in Baghdad. Starting back in 2003, the latest entry, on August 5th, must have been incorporated into the show part way into its Fringe run, showing a pleasing commitment and flexibility on the part of the players.The five-strong cast (four female) take on the various moods and voices of 'Riverbend' and members of her friends and family in their occasional dialogues. They chop the blog up between them, one taking her discussions of date-palms, for example, or the water shortage, or the political situation, the threads interlinked but made distinct by their separate voices.

There's something sweet and at the same time embarrassing about hearing the much-read blog performed by fresh-faced young Americans. If one didn't know that every word came from the mouth of a real woman living in Iraq, their sincerity and emotion would be almost insulting. Instead it's only awkward, and yes, a little touching to watch the cast pour out their righteous indignation and anger at their own government's actions through the words of that girl somewhere in Baghdad.

There are a couple of lovely moments - the desperate, halting attempt at a phone conversation on a terminally bad line, the moving coda, which might remind some of the quintessentially British reaction of many to news of the 7/7 London bombings last year. But ultimately, it's the impassioned and articulate writing that carries this show. While the players do give a genuine and eloquent performance, the blog more than speaks for itself.
©Morag Hannah 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August date at 1410 every day, not 14.
Company - Barrow Street Productions & Six Figures Theatre
Company Website - www.sixfigures.com


Gizmo Love. (Page 170).
Drams .
Venue Assembly Rooms - George Street.
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

What to say about Gizmo Love? Well, for starters, it twists and turns, intrigues, engages, confounds, amuses, captivates, surprises – and if you don’t keep your eye on the ball, will probably disappear around a corner in a flash of light, leaving you panting for breath, trying to catch up.

It’s theatre that demands immersion and focus, but if you take that journey, the rewards are rich. From the acclaimed ATC stable, and beautifully directed by Matt Wilde, Gizmo Love is a black comedy thriller that puts the seedy, no-prisoners-taken world of Hollywood screenwriting under the microscope. Young, nerdy writer Ralph, wonderfully played by Tony Dantzic, sells his beloved script to a faceless producer. World-weary Manny, Peter Polycarpou, is recruited to shape up the product (and the writer), and two hit men, Paul M Meston and Samuel Roukin, move in to ensure the job is completed to everyone’s satisfaction

What eventually constitutes a consensus for satisfaction however, is up for existential debate in the final act. There is superb acting across the piece, great comic notes, and wonderful juxtaposition of characters. A slick, committed production, Gizmo Love is the culmination of actors, director and writer working in perfect synergy.

At one point Manny drolly comments to Ralph, “You’re unusual….you’re off the beaten track…” And so is this play. Interesting, challenging theatre – go see it.
© Leanna Rance - 11 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28th August at 12.15 every day, excepting 14.
Company - ATC.


Goodness.(Page 171).

Drams None needed.
Venue Traverse Theatre. (Venue 15).
Address Cambridge Street, off Lothian Road.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Every year, the Traverse Theatre seems to attract the very best in new writing, and 2006 has proved to be no exception. Michael Redhill's play Goodness is an enthralling, moving drama that concerns itself with concepts of history, guilt and social responsibility. The production boasts a terrific cast, under Ross Manson's unobtrusive direction, and for all its interrogation of life's 'big questions' it remains a deeply personal, private piece of theatre.

The play follows a divorced Jewish playwright, interestingly also called Michael Redhill, Gord Rand, as he undertakes a pilgrimage from Canada to Poland, the land of his ancestors. Several of his family were killed by the Nazis in 1941, but his search for answers in mainland Europe proves fruitless. The disillusioned writer then heads home via a stopover in London, where he stumbles across Althea, Lili Francks, an old woman who tells of her youth spent as a prison guard. As we relive her past, her senile prisoner, Mathias Todd, Victor Ertmanis, stands accused of genocide on a monstrous scale in an unnamed country. Althea and Michael's stories meld seamlessly into one as their memories are brought to life on stage, and events culminate in a dramatic stand-off of unbearable intensity.

The image of the modern North American Jew heading to Europe in search of his past is hardly new, and calls to mind Jonathan Safran Foer's 2002 novel Everything is Illuminated. However, in Goodness Michael's family history only represents half the story, with the bulk of the play devoted to Althea's recollections of her prisoner. Redhill dismantles any divisions between past and present as Michael and Althea interact with the historical figures of Todd, his daughter Julia, Amy Rutherford, and a brutal prosecutor, an impressive JD Nicholsen.

Rand in particular is superb in the central role, poignantly capturing the frustrations of a man unable to intervene in the changeless passage of history. Redhill's script manages to be alternately playful and solemn, and his refusal to name the country that hosted Todd's genocide lends events a universal relevance. Manson's atmospheric use of folk music from both African and European cultures likewise serves to broaden the production's geographical canvas. Words like holocaust and purge lose their fixity of meaning as Redhill poses the question, "Why do good people rush to do evil?" It is a question that is as pertinent now as it ever was, and in Redhill's hands the answer remains intriguingly open-ended. A memorable production, and a stunning new play from the pen of a quite considerable talent.
©Edmund Gould 18 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 27 August every day (except 21 August), at various times. See Fringe programme for details.
Company - Volcano (Canada) in association with Richard Jordan Productions.


The Good Thief. (Page 171).
Drams .
Venue C (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

Telling the story of a hapless Irish "frightener", whose pub-owning, gangland boss not only steals his girlfriend but also tries to have him killed, The Good Thief is beautifully and energetically acted by one man, a white table and two white blocks. These last three objects are cunningly employed to conjure the stairs of a house, a car, a pub and a lot more besides - further, our man keeps talking as he moves them forming seamless scene changes as he narrates.

And he doesn't just narrate - he jumps, swaggers, slouches and punches his way across, around and up and down the stage - not an area, not a joule of energy is wasted. Although the story is not the most original, think of a dark Guy Ritchie movie but set in Ireland, the man on stage holds your attention all of the time. The only time when the energy falls is during the violent scenes which are narrated in a pre-recorded voiceover. I generally dislike these as they destroy the chemistry between audience and performer and it's especially so in this case.

It is not a happy story - our man doesn't escape prison, his companions do not escape death. But, at the end of it all, one feels sorry for our thuggish protangonist; I felt much the same as I do after reading 1984 and I had the overwhelming desire to start singing "under the spreading chestnut tree...". If it is up again next year, do try to catch The Good Thief.
© Chris Mounsey August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 19.00 every day.
Company - Watch-It Productions.

(G) 6 out of 156
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